#125 La Salle Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

La Salle Explorers
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #125
Conference Rank: #9 Atlantic 10
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The return of 6-7 senior forward B.J. Johnson gives La Salle a great opportunity to improve on their .500 season of a year ago. The Explorers have hit a bit of a lull the last few years and have not finished above .500 in conference play since the 2012-2013 campaign when they reached the NCAA Tournament and pulled off a couple upsets on their way to the Sweet 16. Dr. John Giannini’s team may not be able to repeat that success, but Johnson can get them close. Last season he averaged 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds and shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc. There are not many defenders in the Atlantic 10 who can defend a player of his size and athleticism that can shoot consistently from long range. Johnson flirted with entering the NBA Draft and could have been a second round selection. With a good senior season, he could cement his spot as a second round draft choice in the 2018 NBA Draft.
2016-17 Record: 15-15, 9-9
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Dr. John Giannini
Coach Record: 198-205 at La Salle, 491-354 overall
Who’s Out:
The loss of Jordan Price cannot be overstated. He averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists during his senior season and could do everything for the Explorers. His numbers dipped a little last season when others came into the program and helped out, but it has been Price who carried this team for the last three years. Fellow guard Cleon Roberts ran out of eligibility as well after averaging 7.0 points during his senior season. Like the 6-5 Price, Roberts added some nice size to the perimeter. Hank Davis and Yevgen Sakhniuk will not be returning after seeing limited playing time during the 2016-2017 season.
Who’s In:
Dajour Joseph is one of the newcomers who can add size to the perimeter. The 6-6 wing is a very talented athlete, but Joseph has a pretty good all-around game at this point in his career as well. However, the bigger impact on the perimeter will eventually be made by Jamir Moultrie. The 6-1 point guard will have this season to learn behind some experienced players, but by 2018-2019 he will be expected to turn into a starter. For now he can run some backup point and be a very good scoring option off the bench. If Moultrie lives up to his potential right away, he could be a great sixth man as a freshman. Miles Brookins will need some time to develop. The 6-9, 210 pound center will spend his freshman season gaining strength and experience. That is what Cian Sullivan did last year during his redshirt season. The 7-2 center has a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen if he can crack the regular rotation as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
Even without Price, La Salle is a team that relies on talented guards. Pookie Powell and Amar Stukes are both guards who can score and handle the ball. Powell transferred from Memphis and averaged 13.7 points, 3.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals during his debut season with the Explorers. He is extremely quick and is a good scorer from everywhere on the floor. It seemed logical that Stukes would see his playing time diminish when Powell was eligible to play, but that was not the case. Stukes ran the show and dished out 4.3 assists per game and added 8.1 points. He is not a great shooter, but Stukes will be efficient when he does look to score. With Powell’s ability to help out on the glass and score in bunches, he can spend plenty of time off the ball and be a secondary ball handler to Stukes. Isiah Deas and Johnnie Shuler will add depth on the perimeter. Deas, a 6-6 sophomore, averaged fewer than ten minutes per game in just 17 contests last year, but he has the size La Salle needs on the perimeter. Shuler saw his playing time decrease dramatically last season, but two years ago he was a starter and averaged 9.6 points per game. That goes to show how much more talent this roster had last year compared to the year before.
Final Projection:
However, that talent did not result in wins. La Salle should have been a much better team last year but failed to live up to the expectations. This year the expectations are lower, but there is still a lot of talent here. It continues into the frontcourt where Demetrius Henry and Tony Washington were both productive big men. Henry started 18 games and averaged 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds, while Washington earned a dozen starts and tallied 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds. Those two will man the five spot, although they could play together with Johnson sliding down to the three if La Salle finds enough frontcourt depth from the newcomers. That seems unlikely though, which means this is going to be a smaller backcourt than La Salle has been used to with Price on the floor. That will not be a huge deal for a team that will get outrebounded on a regular basis regardless, but it could be an issue defensively.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Amar Stukes, Senior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Johnnie Shuler, Senior, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Pookie Powell, Junior, Guard, 13.7 points per game
B.J. Johnson, Senior, Forward, 17.6 points per game
Demetrius Henry, Senior, Center, 5.8 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.5 (115th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 76.6 (274, 14)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (99, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 46.7 (308, 14)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.5 (78, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (108, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 76.6 (18, 2)
Rebound Margin: -0.8 (228, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.2 (124, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (184, 11)